1. Fennoscandia

Sheltozero_KareliaThe Fenno-Scandian region has been one of the major drivers of images of domestication in the European imagination. Starting perhaps with the long field studies of Carl Linneus, and culminating with the strong indigenous rights movements among Saamis and other Northern peoples, the region serves as a reminder that Europe is also an Arctic region. With the renewed importance of offshore oil and gas, now being developed in the Norwegian Sea, the issues of the balance between industry, indigenous rights, and the environment have made this an important region politically.

Excavation1Post-doctoral fellow Dr. Anna-Kaisa Salmi concentrates on the archaeology of reindeer domestication and changing human-reindeer relationships in Medieval and Early Modern Fennoscandia. Through the zooarchaeological analysis and stable isotope analysis of reindeer bone remains from archaeological sites, as well as through reconstruction of reindeer’s physical activity she explored the interactions between the Sámi and reindeer in the past, concentrating especially on reindeer feeding and harness use.

Vepsian woman with magpie
Picture No ERM1729:47
ERM (Eesti Rahva Muuseum) acrhive
in Tartu, Estonia

Dr. Laura Siragusa works with two Finno-Ugric groups, Veps and Sámi in Russia, to problematize linguistic interaction and communicative activities between humans and animals living in and around traditional rural settlements. She analyses the linguistic nature of how people talk about, engage and negotiate with animals and spirits. Her focus is not representational but relational: how moments of engagement and negotiation through spoken language have the power to create and influence the forces within a specific environment. Siragusa therefore studies the creation or building of the environment through the focus on the linguistic interaction between humans and animals. She also challenges progressive approaches to domestication and appraises metaphors of domination in the relationship between humans and animals.

The associated scholars Gro Ween and Prof. Marianne Lien have conducted fieldwork among local salmon fishermen as well as with industrial salmon farmers in the Norwegian region of Finnmark. If dogs are commonly said to be one of the first domesticates, salmon are one of the most recent. Their status as a relatively domestic or 'alien' species that can easily break free of their aquariums has sparked controversy as environmental activists and local fishermen discuss natural vs farmed types of salmon.  

Domesticated reindeer have been a signature northern species in this region historically as today. Together with associated scholar Knut Røed, Prof. David Anderson has investigated the physical and biological qualities of domesticated reindeer in terms of their mitrochondrial geography and nuclear markers of coat colour. These data are showing interesting contrasts with Northern Russian and Siberian samples suggesting new stories of the domestication of reindeer in this region.